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Author Topic: Amount of land for a croft  (Read 3452 times)


  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Amount of land for a croft
« on: June 02, 2016, 04:43:24 pm »
Hi folks,

I had always understood that crofts were deliberately set up to be big enough to provide only a certain percentage of what a family needed. Each family would then have another trade on the side (cobbler, smith, boat repairer, what have you) to contribute to the wider community and to make ends meet. All very utopian don't you think?

However, I recently read a historical account that said very bitterly that crofts were deliberately set up with not enough land, in order to keep the crofters reliant on the estates, landowners etc for a wage. This ensured that they were not entirely self-sufficient, and left the landowners still in control (partly to prevent another '45 uprising? not sure).

Can anybody shed any light on which of these is nearer to the truth?  Thanks!  :thumbsup:
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett


  • Joined Apr 2014
  • Mid Wales
  • Owner of 61 Mediterranean water buffaloes
Re: Amount of land for a croft
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2016, 04:54:20 pm »
It sounds very similar to the padrone in Italy and the mezzadria. I would think the older record was exact and it has become the sharing thing later on. Here we are some info not sure if this helps?
the most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, loving concern.


  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Amount of land for a croft
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2016, 05:53:45 pm »
I'd heard the latter explanation, Womble - but probably reading the same book you're reading now!
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

oor wullie

  • Joined Jun 2012
  • Strathnairn
Re: Amount of land for a croft
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2016, 08:23:01 am »
Probably a variety if reasons which differ in different areas.

My croft is a subdivision of a larger croft that, 150 years ago, was probably as able to support a couple of families as well as any farm.  But we are inland so quite different from the west coast.

When people were cleared from the straths they were settled on the coast (those that didn't emigrate) leading to highly congested areas and correspondingly small plots.
Landowners were quite happy to encourage this, it effectively ensured they had a form of bonded labour for things like the kelp industry.  Prior to the 1886 act not providing labour for the estate might result in eviction.

Some crofters would have had their own business, often a fishing boat or perhaps the local shop but they were probably a minority.

The gov had a "congested districts board" to try and find ways of relieving the overcrowding.  In Kilmuir Skye, they even drained a big loch to provide provide a bit more space!

The overcrowding started causing unrest (people were struggling to survive as they didn't have enough land to feed themselves) and the government was forced to buy out several estates to allow people to resettle on them.

Most crofters (and the landless) dreamt of being able to survive on their crofts - utopia it was not, so probably more like your second description Womble.


  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Amount of land for a croft
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2016, 09:35:28 am »
I may have read the same book as you, Womble, but I also understand that crofts were sized so that the tenant crofter remained beholden to the landlord to provide labour at busy times.

Currently reading "The Lowland Clearances Scotland's Silent Revolution 1760-1830" by Peter Aitchison and Andrew Cassell. The same tactics were employed by landlors in the lowlands 40 years earlier. Leases of land were terminated, land enclosed, farms amalgamated and expanded so the landless, if they were lucky, were employed in mills build by the landlords and often housed in planned villages, which kept them availabble for employment on the land at harvest time.


  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Lochaber, Highland
Re: Amount of land for a croft
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2016, 01:15:30 pm »
It had nothing to do with the '45 and other risings: it was the chiefs who decided if people were going to take part in those or not.

Enclosure and conversion from run-rig to crofting put the landowner firmly in control of the relationship with each tenant with no middlemen to confuse the issue. As mentioned by others, this began to take place at a time when the landowners wanted a large labour force on the coast to harvest kelp. In some areas there are fairly sizeable crofts, but in most areas there can have been little or no possibility of surviving entirely on the produce of the croft. My own croft is 4.5 hectares in area, with less than 50% of that being suitable for planting oats or potatoes. The other 6 crofts in the township are similar in size, as are those in other townships in the district.

A "One family per croft" rule often applied and gave the landowner great control over who lived on the land: if a son of the house married, he would have to leave home.


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